Schools And Teachers Can Help Spot The Signs

Nearly one in five secondary school children in the UK have been severely abused or neglected during childhood, the NSPCC finds as part of a major study.

The finding comes from a survey of 2,275 children aged 11-17 and 1,761 adults aged 18-24 carried out by the charity in 2009. The study follows an earlier NSPCC survey of the childhood experiences of 18-24 year olds in 1998-99.

Despite the high amount of abuse found, the NSPCC study reveals falling amounts of some types of abuse over the last 30 years – showing that progress can be made in the fight against child cruelty. The charity believes that this can be attributed to heightened awareness and action that has contributed to changing public attitudes and behaviours towards children.

Overall, the findings raise concern that the vast majority of abused and neglected children are not getting the vital help they need – either from statutory services or informal support networks in the community. There are currently around 46,000 children of all ages on a local authority child protection plan or register.

Such lack of support can cause serious harm to children’s development and long-term health. The study indicates that severely abused and neglected children are almost nine times more likely to try and kill themselves and almost five times more likely to self-harm than children who have not been severely abused or neglected.

The NSPCC sees schools, along with other professionals and the wider community, as vital in helping to identify hidden cases of child abuse in the UK.

Andrew Flanagan, chief executive of the NSPCC, said:

“There are likely to be severely maltreated children in every secondary school across the country. Some will face abuse and neglect while still at school. Others will have suffered abuse and neglect in early childhood.

“Teachers have a critical role to play in helping these children, as outside the home, school is the main place of safety for a child. They must be supported to identify possible signs of abuse and neglect, like feeling suicidal. They can then work with social workers, health and other professionals to prevent the long-term harm it causes.”

The NSPCC is urging all schools to use its information and resources for schools, teachers and education professionals

If you are worried about a child you can call the NSPCC’s a free, confidential, 24-hour Helpline on 0808 800 5000

About the NSPCC
The NSPCC is the UK’s leading children’s charity specialising in child protection and the prevention of cruelty to children. The NSPCC runs projects and services across the United Kingdom and Channel Islands, including ChildLine, the UK’s free, confidential 24-hour helpline for children and young people.

ChildLine 0800 1111

NSPCC Helpline 0808 800 5000.

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Andy, 22, research participant

“I spent my childhood feeling like a faulty product which my parents couldn’t take back to the shop and they were angry all the time because they couldn’t return me.

“They punished me with violence and told me off for crying. They told me I was worthless and no good. They would always try to demean me.

“When I was four years old my mum threw me down the stairs and broke my arm. Another time, when I was about nine years old, she hit me around the head with a stiletto heel.

“I wasn’t allowed to be with other kids outside of primary school, so most of them stopped being friends with me and then started bullying me. I became more and more withdrawn. The bullying continued pretty much constantly until I was in sixth form.

“I left home just before my 16th birthday. I was vulnerable really. I went through a phase of drinking and smoking and dabbling in drugs. After that, I took two overdoses in quick succession.

“I had only talked to a few close friends about my childhood before I took part in the NSPCC research.

“When the doors are closed, kids only know what goes on in their own family.”

Pete, 20, research participant

“Over the years, my mum kicked and beat me, she throttled me, threw me down the stairs, pushed me into a scolding hot bath. She once held my head under water and another time she shoved a full bar of soap in my mouth. There are too many incidents to recount.”

“I’m still living with the feelings and fears from those days now, in my twenties.”

“When I was very young, I didn’t know any different. The hostility and violence was just part of life with my mum. Her answer to most things was to lash out or scream at us. That’s how I was brought up.

“For a long time, I accepted what was going on at home as normal. But no child should have to live in fear or on edge in their own home – that’s the place they should feel safest.”

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